Money + meaning

I am the first to admit that I am money-conscious. I love a good deal, have been called “frugal” more than once and spend untold amounts of my time creating budgets and cash flow projections. But I also engage in the risky business of being self-employed and there is always an element of the unknown. Unknowns can lead to anxiety.

Have you ever asked yourself: “What is my purpose for money?”  Danielle Laporte asked herself exactly that and created a little list connecting money to her needs and wants. Through the Fire Starter Sessions, she encourages others to get clear on their purpose for money.

I have done my own reflections on value and wealth. I could keep them to myself – because money like religion and politics is not something I typically expound upon in public venues – but I think everyone should own her money story not hide from it.

So here it is.  My truth about money.

I don’t love or hate money. I don’t care about “having” it. I care about what I can “do” with it.

I grew up financially enlightened. My dad took me grocery shopping with him every Saturday and once I started asking questions, he would talk to me about price comparisons of everything from a can of tuna to a box of cereal.  I got a sense at an early age as to how much utilities like cable and hydro cost so that by the time I moved out on my own to pursue studies at the age of 17, I didn’t freak out about my bills.

Because I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue private school education, I experienced the value of sweat equity going to nightly office cleanings with my parents as a source of supplemental income for my family. Each garbage can emptied or urinal scrubbed eventually translated into a tuition payment. I am deeply grateful to have had parents who were willing to do everything it took to support my future. And although I lived a very easy life compared to what they endured growing up, they didn’t excuse me from the necessary hard work to ensure that future.

I have been self-employed for the last 5 years but it wasn’t until this year that I actually feel satisfied with my earning potential. What changed? I became more efficient in how I work so that I could take on MORE work. I stopped undervaluing my expertise and services and instead, increased my rates. It has taken me awhile to get there, but I feel good about the fact that between 2011 and 2012, my gross sales have increased by 40%.

My approach to business sustainability has been to create  long-term working relationships with a few anchor clients so that I can fill my docket for 4, 6, 10 and 12 month periods and fill gaps with short-term or one-off clients. I feel so satisfied to be able to generate positive and desired outcomes for clients that create repeat business and by extension, an ongoing pipeline of projects.

Each year, I give on average $600 of my own money in charitable donations and contribute over $6,000 in-kind to charitable organizations, pro-bono clients and personally-led community projects. I expect that over time this ratio will shift and become more balanced between monetary and in-kind contributions. Even still, I always imagine a time in which I will be engaged in some kind of service to my community.

When I planned my destination wedding, I negotiated every dollar with my wedding vendors and created a strict budget which I was determined to meet. I minimized floral, decor, cake and dress costs so that I could splurge on the venue. Most people guess I have expensive taste and that my wedding cost $40,000. The truth: we had a budget of $14,000 and came in $400 under it including travel and accommodations.  I take great pride in knowing that the richness of that experience came down to the people, stories and shared happiness but at the same time, no one, least of all me, felt like we cheaped out.

My most expensive life  lesson came with a $35,000 price tag after spending a year in law school in the United States.  Today, I maintain that this was the best experience of my life to-date because without it, I would never have known a different future. I still wonder, if the lesson had been “free”, would it have had the same impact?

I have 2 credit cards – one with an annual fee and benefits, and the other without. I never carry a balance on either.

I can’t bring myself to pay to see movies in theatre. I wait until I have racked up enough rewards or points to get movie passes.

It bugs me that I  knowingly pay too much in banking fees and for roaming charges. (There is a lot I can say about this but that is for another day.)

Over the last 4 years, I have soaked up a lot of good knowledge and tips on how to build wealth through real estate. This kind of education is worth millions but I was lucky enough to get it for free.

My mom taught me that the skills, experience and mojo I bring to the table are worth something. She also taught me that no one else will understand my value until I demonstrate it and communicate it.

I am happy to forego professional mani-pedis, expensive dinners and designer duds in order to put money toward something I really love like travel.

My philosophy around travel is 1) only travel with purpose (i.e.  for family, work, or adventure), 2) never pay full price for accommodations, 3) create a little wiggle room in your budget for those unanticipated once-in-a-lifetime experiences and 4) always generously tip the chamber maids, bellhops and wait staff in hotels. (At least a handful of my family members were employed in hotels since arriving in Canada and knowing how hard they worked has helped me value the service others provide.)

I have been investing in socially-responsible funds since 2001. Some have been low-risk short-term investments like my “wedding fund” and others are for the long-term like my RRSP – which I have only recently been contributing to again. When you are running a business, it can be tough to “pay yourself first” but I think it is a good rule and I do my best to adhere to it.

So what does money mean to me? In general, freedom.

Specifically, it means:

  • owning a beautiful, soulful home to grow a family and my business.
  • churning out illuminating and transformative work that others value.
  • a rock solid foundation even in the event of a worst case scenario.
  • taking care of MY people (family, children, friends, kindred spirits, canines).
  • investing in growing other people’s social ventures and brilliant futures.
  • traveling to the far reaches of the earth before I die.
  • seizing the day and experiencing those truly once-in-a-lifetime moments.
  • retiring to a farm in the south of France – someday.
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One thought on “Money + meaning

  1. Kristle, this is such an interesting post! CSI has a great site for people who want to invest their money in mission-based investment options: http://communitybonds.ca/invest-in-your-community/

    As community bonds become more common I think it is good to spread the word.

    And, to your last bullet point, the area we are in right now in France is lovely – it would make a great retirement location! The house is owned by a former Innis College person too 🙂

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